Addiction and Freedom
All of us are addicted to something, whether it be to Facebook, chocolate, TV, pornography, food, drugs, gambling, self-stimulation, fantasizing about a romantic relationship, sports, etc... the list goes on. Now for a lot of these things, when we see them in others, we just say, "He / she is really into that." We do not place any value judgment on their involvement with a particular thing unless it begins to have negative consequences to them or to others. Negative consequences would be things like missing school or work, growing distant from people, dropping or shirking one's responsibilities and any kind of harmful or destructive behavior. For example one minister said that he finally realized he had a problem with alcohol when he missed church on Sunday (he was supposed to preach) due to being hung-over. Dr. Gerald G. May, M.D. in his book Addiction and Grace states, "I am not being flippant when I say that all of us suffer from addiction. Nor am I reducing the meaning of addiction. I mean in all truth that the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being."1
So, what is the difference between addiction and bondage? Bondage is the Christian term used in the Bible to describe addiction. It also adds a theological bent bringing in the concept of sin. Thus when we are "in to something," we are really addicted to it. Bondage carries with it the idea of being enslaved or under subjection to a force.2 This thing we are enslaved to is not of God but becomes a substitute for God in one's life. For the Christian this is sin, for Jesus is no longer our master but the thing we are addicted to is. For simplicity sake I will use the term "addiction" for both addiction and bondage since addiction is the term more commonly used today.
The apostle Paul sums up addiction well in Romans 7:15 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.3 In addiction we feel powerless. We feel out of control. Something else has gained control and mastery of us and no matter what we do, we can not break free of this control. Again Dr. May states, "...our addictions are our own worst enemies. They enslave us with chains that are of our own making and yet that, paradoxically, are virtually beyond our control. Addiction also makes idolators of us all, because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another."4
So, how do we gain freedom over our addictions? How do we break free of the bondage we are in? Read on.
1 Gerald G. May, M.D., Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 3.
2 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 11th edtion.
3 Romans 7:15, NIV.
4 May, Addiction and Grace, 4.